Football without the fans is nothing. The famous Jock Stein quote that resonates with every fan across any level in football.
Sadly due to the COVID-19, there is no football at the moment and when it returns there will be no fans there to watch (so the government warned today). Without vital match day income smaller clubs are unable to survive and in Wales one of the countries most successful clubs Rhyl Football Club are in grave danger due to this situation.
In a Football CFB exclusive I spoke senior members of the football club who told me exactly how stark the situation is for the club.
Rhyl Football Club is over 140 years old, they have played at the Belle Vue ground for over 100 years.
One of the most successful North Wales football clubs (winning (inc Welsh premier league winners 2003/4 and 2009/9), they have represented Welsh football in Europe 6 times lastly in 2009/10 playing FK Partizan.
Currently playing in tier 2 of the Welsh footballing pyramid, the club has a full boys academy and u19s team in addition to the mens first team alongside ladies and girls teams.
The club have 4 years left on the ground lease – rent commercially overpriced and increasing year on year as some similar clubs are paying peppercorn lease to their local councils of around £100 rent per year – Rhyl are paying nearly £24,000.
The clubs fixed costs don’t go away not including inflation and they are close to £5k without the variable running costs on top leading them to needing well over £100k for a full season and requiring £24k to guarantee the lease for a season up front.
The club have had only two competitive games in the last 10 weeks initially due to bad weather impacting income badly then the Coronavirus has given the club the perfect storm with no signs of income for potentially months yet.
The big issue for Rhyl is that they won’t be able to use the ground during the 6 weeks from what’s normally the end of the season mid April until the end of May when they they normally would host many fundraising events and tournaments at the ground on the pitch that fund a good chunk of the next season. This period in known commercially as the clubs ‘golden month’ as its when the club bring in the most money in the year.
To quote a senior members of the club ‘We always knew this issues with the ground was coming over the remaining 4 years left on the lease as we shared the issue with the ground and finances transparency in December at a supporter open meeting but….
The issue has been brought forward by the Coronavirus however we at the club are also really conscious that there has to be a priority focus on health and lives ahead of football.
We are also conscious that when football returns most games may be played behind closed doors and we will still have to incur costs to host them. Grants will support but will be no where near enough to the money we need, then on top there will be potential impacts to businesses who will reduce and threaten some or all of our much needed sponsorship, fundraising will become difficult and games may not start until September or later – so no guarantees at all on income during 2020 – we have to bills and rent to guarantee for 12 months now.
We have approached the Welsh Footballing Association who have told us they are not in a position to support or help us other than a small loan as long as could guarantee it, which would be difficult as we don’t own the ground or have anything to guarantee against.’
Another club source also stated that the Rhyl Fans Association have been amazing along with other volunteers in trying to raise funds – we must have the best supporters in North Wales and they are now accepting that they may have to consider a Phoenix club as the town is too big and footballing history too rich not to.
So far, the Club has received multiple enquiries from a number of parties interested in possible investment / sponsorship of the Club but these have either failed the required due diligence or fallen away when they realise there is nothing to invest in.
Worryingly, the club state that they are now at the end of the road unless there is something that comes out of the blue as they have to discuss and consider the unpalatable unthinkable option of entering liquidation.
The club told CFB that we will issue a further news release will be issued on any outcomes arising.